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Tag Archives: Spring Training

Spring Training Tourism Advice for Planet Jupiter

Spring Training tourists 9Okay! So you have bought the tickets and are planning to hop a plane to Florida and leave the winter cold behind? Congratulations! You soon will have arrived in baseball heaven …or at least the February/March location.

Roger Dean Stadium

Roger Dean Stadium

Welcome to Jupiter, Florida, the Spring Training home of the St. Louis Cardinals!

If this is your first Spring Training trip, let me pass along some tips we have learned from those who went before us and some hints we’ve discovered for ourselves along the way.

1) Weather:  Any February or March weather in Florida is likely better than weather from where you are coming, but there are two things to prepare for.  Rain (the unthinkable MAY happen: your long awaited Spring Training vacation game may be delayed or cancelled) and sun (oh my goodness, the sun… it will bake you before you know it. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen people!)

2) Getting There: The Layout:  Roger Dean Stadium is home to both the Cardinals and the Miami Marlins during Spring Training, but Marlins fans are few and far between. The Marlins training fields are to the North of the stadium and the Cardinals facilities are to the East or NorthEast.  The Roger Dean Stadium complex is located near the campus of Florida Atlantic University in a community named Abacoa.  East of I95, North of Donald Ross Rd, West of Central Blvd.

Image

Follow the signs

Follow the signs

Parking: There is a parking garage less than a block, west of the stadium entrance.  This year they were charging $10.  There are also some parking spaces along the roads, but those spots are hard to come by unless you want to hike a bit.

Spring Training tourists 5Team Store: This is located at the Southwest corner of Roger Dean Stadium. Hours vary depending on the day (game day, workout day, etc). Here you can pick up special “Spring Training Cardinals” baseballs for autographs and the usual collection of hats, shirts, jerseys and whatnot. It’s not a large space and tends to be extremely crowded just before the stadium opens for games, so plan accordingly.  The staff is super helpful – if you are nice.  (Which you just really should be because you are at Spring Training and you are happy and warm and there’s baseball!)  The team store does have a website with hours, etc at http://rogerdeanstadium.com/team-store/store-hours.html

Backfields: These are a short walk to the East and North of the stadium, past the player parking lot and the clubhouse.  There is little chance of getting lost as the signs will guide you if you stick to the sidewalks.

Heading to the back fields

Heading to the back fields

Practice Times:  Spring Training games most often start at 1:05 local Florida time (double check your tickets in case of split squad games or other variances).  My experience has been that players arrive on the backfields at Roger Dean anywhere from 9AM to 10AM with practice lasting roughly 90 minutes.  The gates to the stadium open around 11:30AM for 1:05 game start times.

James Ramsey poses with the kids on the back fields

James Ramsey poses with the kids on the back fields

Autographs:  Spring Training is an autograph collector’s dream (usually).  This year we went to the first games of the season and the players didn’t sign after practice as much as they have in the past.  However this was the exception to our usual experience. The players have been more laid back and willing to hang around for photos and autographs during the later days of Spring Training ).  You will see two prime areas for autograph opportunities built into the back fields layout:  a short fence on the north side of the spectator area and a smaller barricade directly beside the 3rd base dugout of the main practice field. It’s all very close – just follow the crowds. If these directions aren’t clear, no worries:  the sweet volunteers in the bright orange Hawaiian inspired uniform shirts will point you in the right direction.  If players are going to sign autographs, they will usually stop by either of those two locations AFTER the conclusion of the practices.

right behind the bullpen bench

right behind the bullpen bench

Berm Seating:  Tickets for that area go on sale each morning at the stadium.  Fans can sit on the grassy berm by RF just behind the bullpen bench and the relief pitchers and bullpen catchers will often sign autographs there between innings.

Know your numbers:  We took a printout with all the players’ Spring Training uniform numbers to reference during practices and games.  It came in handy, especially with the abundance of minor leaguers in camp.  The always informative Cardinal Nation Blog (run by Brian Walton, @B_Walton) has a complete list here.

with MoMake friends at the game:  You never know who may be sitting next to you!  One year, we were sitting in front of the parents of a player on the opposing team -and come to find out he played 10 years at 2nd base with the San Fransisco Giants (something we only found at AFTER we’d left the stadium!)  He only mentioned that he was the father of the kid playing in Spring Training and gave me his email address to send him photos I was taking of his son  (If only I hadn’t lost that email! ugh.)  If you want to read more about the “Robby Thompson misadventure” I wrote about that back in 2010, here titled Mission Impossible.  This year we successfully managed to stalk  find John Mozeliak in the stands during a game and snagged a quick photo.

Spring Training tourists 11gander mountain autographsKeep your eyes and ears open for unique opportunities.  For example, Brian Walton also alerted us to an autograph opportunity at a FL Sporting Goods store where we snagged autographs from Mike Matheny, John Mabry and Matt Carpenter.  We also stumbled across the Rawlings truck parked outside the stadium, showcasing the Gold Glove Awards that will be presented to Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright in April – we could just walk up and touch them!  super cool!  And watch out for chance meetings with players on the campus.  We bumped into Chris Carpenter taking a jog on the streets around the stadium several years ago.  Players may also stop their car on the way out of the player parking lot when they leave for the day to sign for the poor straggler fans who hang around long enough at the end of the day.  Spring Training is just too incredible for most diehard baseball fans to imagine… you just have to be there!

So, I hope you have the time of your dreams on Planet Jupier! ;)

Best wishes on your journey, and may you catch a foul ball!

When not at the ballgame or the backfields, some other interesting tourist things you might find to do around Jupiter:

  • Visit the Jupiter lighthouse and museum (website link)
  • Drive through Jupiter island to ogle at the million dollar beach homes.
  • Hit the beach!  Weather permitting, there are several beaches within driving distance:  Jupiter Beach, Palm Beach, etc.  This year we drove to Lake Worth Beach which had a cool pier and shops close by.  We rented a little beach umbrella and a couple of chairs right there on the public beach because we hadn’t packed any beach gear and had a fabulous day people watching while the kids splashed in the ocean.
  • Visit the Elliott museum, a baseball museum in Stuart, FL.  I toured this museum back in 2010, on “special assignment” for Aaron Hooks over at CardsDiaspora.com. (Which pretty much meant that he had free tickets from the place if he would put up a post about it on his website.  I had to pretend that I knew what I was doing as a reporter or something, but it got me free admission and a personal tour of the museum.  That was also my inaugural internet writing attempt and I was crazy nervous… which looking back on that now cracks me up!  ;)  Here’s the link to that adventure and the post over at CardsDiaspora:  Erika’s Spring Training 2010 Confidential

This was, of course, just a few quick tips I would give any friends  heading to Jupiter.  If you have more great advice for other Cardinal baseball fans visiting Spring Training for the first time, please share in the comments section!

My spring training trips usually include hundreds of camera shots because the photo opportunities are tremendous.  So don’t forget your camera, of course! And if you missed the player photos from my 2014 trip, here is the link to the gallery.

St Louis Cardinals, Spring Training 2014

A quick post to share player photos from our recent trip to sunny Jupiter, Florida – the Spring Training home of our beloved St. Louis Cardinals.  Photos (from the February 28th game against the Marlins and the March 2nd game against the Mets.)

Coming soon:  Photo diary with tips on how to be a baseball tourist in and around Jupiter Florida, Roger Dean stadium and the practice back fields.  (LINK HERE)

Click on any photo to enlarge and/or to shift through larger photos one at a time.  Enjoy!

Baseball is back!!  :)

The Kozma Spring Training Support Group

kozma from pinterestSo the internets are all abuzz lately with banter about the Cardinals’ shortstop crisis.  Here’s the quick set-up:

  • Rafael Furcal’s injury looks pretty serious.
  • The signing of Ronny Cedeno  (oldish guy, mediocre bandaid) isn’t the sure cure fans were hoping for.
  • Brendan Ryan is still a Mariner.
  • And apparently it is uncool to admit you actually have some faith in Pete Kozma.

I am beginning to feel as though I might need a support group.

“Hello, my name is Erika, and I have faith in Pete Kozma.”

* crickets?… *

Okay guys, it’s just Spring Training and most normal non-baseball- addict-type folk aren’t even really paying attention to baseball yet.  Sure, some anxious fans are already gearing up for the season, practicing their panic over pitching performances and their elation as otherwise mild-mannered position players are knocking the ball out of the park with the help of some hitter-friendly Florida wind gusts, not to mention the help of experimental opposing pitching; but let’s just sit back and enjoy the moment, shall we?

1)  The long winter drought is allllmost over… finally some real baseball is being played.

2)  Pitchers are just gearing up and are likely trying out new and unusual stuff they dreamed up in the offseason.  So, spring training stats are about as useful as painting your fingernails with your feet (unless you’re really good at that.)

3) Pete Kozma may not be as horrible as his critics would like us to believe.

hello my name isIt’s definitely not time to panic.  Heck, according to the calendar it’s not even officially spring yet!  So, can we please give this Kozma kid a shot? Remember those flashes of brilliance Pete surprised us with in the post season?  And just think about all those David Freese critics just a short time back who have now moved on to newer, younger, untested targets.  Past stats are not sure predictors.  Afterall, I’m certain we could find some stats somewhere that can prove that not all breakout players had the stats to predict their first truly successful season, right?

So while the boys are warming up down in Florida, I’d prefer to warm up for the season with a little less worry and a little more faith in Mozeliak and Matheny and our shortstop-by-default.  ~Enjoying instead the pleasant mental exercise of considering the potential baseball magic ahead for our Cardinals in 2013. I’ll even predict here and now that we will be looking back on this Spring Training shortstop “crisis” in a few months thinking we should have had a little more confidence in Kozma.  It’s a lot less stressful that way.  ;)

“Hello, my name is Erika, and I have faith in Pete Kozma.”

Spring Training Warm-Ups


lindsey twitter photo
Baseball fever is making a comeback now that the boys are kicking it in Florida for Spring Training, and this week my dear friend (and Cardinals fan), Lindsey, asked (again) when Diamond Diaries would be back in action.  Without much arm-twisting at all, she agreed to write a guest post for us as sort of our own 2013 season kick-off.  And as you will soon see, smart,sassy and lovable Lindsey, an early victim of baseball fever this year, is ready to chat it up, Cardinals style.  P.S. If you aren’t already, you can follow Lindsey on twitter: @LoveAlwaysGives

 So, Welcome Back!!  And welcome, Lindsey!  =)    ~Erika

>Counting Baseball BlessingsWe’ve started out another Spring Training with the stomach-knotting stressor named, The Unsigned Contract Extension. This time, for Adam Wainwright. Waino is one of those players I could never lose faith in. I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous for the guy when we all found out about his Tommy John surgery. I still remember that moment when my heart fell into my stomach wondering, Could this be it for Waino? But then I snapped back to reality and realized who I was talking about. Waino is bueno, after all. I can see where the problem lies, he’s a pitcher just coming off of elbow surgery with a year left in his contract. Could that be more nerve wracking? He needs to be set to impress. Although a contract has yet to be signed, I’m ready to see some Wainwright action out on the mound this year. Let’s not forget, Mo…It’s ain’t right til it’s Wainwright!

lance-lynn-regular- (2)

photo from robrains.com

And hey, has anyone seen Lance Lynn around h—OH MY! Talk about a transformation! Catching my first full spring training game yesterday, I momentarily thought Garcia was pitching until I saw those four red letters: L-Y-N-N. My jaw immediately dropped. I think we all knew of the 40 pound weight loss Lance underwent throughout his offseason dieting and work out program when an interview came out stating his rather, uhm, confident outlook on where he stood in being a part of the starting rotation for the 2013 season. Reading and hearing about that type of weight loss is a lot different than seeing it out on the mound. Although he’s lacking the backside of Jaime Garcia, I do believe I’ll be seeing more Lance Lynn related #chickcomments popping up on my twitter feed this year. Here’s to hoping this season can start just as strongly as the last. Put those new muscles to work, Lynn!

Oh hey, David! I see you’ve been taking advantage of that Florida sunshine…and that strong man workout paid off for ya…

Ahem. Getting back to what I was saying…

photo from stltoday.com

photo from stltoday.com

I can’t even imagine the conversation between Yadier and Bengie Molina when they found out the good news that Bengie would be appointed Assistant Hitting Coach for the Cardinals this year. No, really, I can’t. I don’t speak Spanish. Nevertheless, I know I was pretty excited to hear we would have the Molina Brothers team effort this year, even if only one of them will make it onto the field. We don’t need no stinking Mark McGwire! Mabry and Molina have got it covered. As long as Bengie isn’t a running coach, I’ve got the faith! In all seriousness, I think all of Cardinal Nation knows the bond between the Molina family is something incredible and with the addition of his brother, I have no doubt that Yadi will be in even more high spirits to go out on the field every day and make his familia proud.

Speaking of families, it’s been quite the offseason for our hairiest member, Mr. Jason Motte. Unlike his teammates, this doesn’t have to do with his physique, work out regimen or contract status. Jason became a father. That’s right, our heat-throwing, ungroomed bear of a closer now changes diapers in his off time. And he couldn’t be happier about it! I predict little Miss Margret Morgan Motte (say that three times fast) is going to be a daddy’s girl in years to come, because he just can’t seem to get enough of his little girl.

Photo by Michael Donahue

Photo by Michael Donahue

Not only is fatherhood the only step forward in Jason’s life, but his charity work is in full swing as well. Throughout last season Jason and his wife, Caitlin, began collecting sports memorabilia to hold an auction called Strike Out Cancer, benefitting the Wings Cancer Foundation. The $37,000 they raised at their first benefit will go to expanding the organization into lower income communities. That is quite a big impact to make with their first endeavor, and there is surely more to come from these two.

Now, in true Erika fashion, it would be wrong not to mention that former Cardinal shortstop, Brendan Ryan knocked one out of the park in his first at-bat for the Seattle Mariners this spring training. You’ve still got it, Boog! Keep ‘em comin!

There is just something remarkable about seeing baseball on my tv again. Although there is still snow in my back yard, and the sunshine has yet to be found, I just can’t help but have something to look forward to on every game day. And it’s baseball. I can only believe that the transformations the guys have gone through this offseason will show onto the field in the 2013 season. We’ve got new birds and new bats, so we are set to make this one a season to remember!

My Cardinals bucket list

The below is a post from my old blog.  I thought I’d update it and use it for my first official post on Diamond Diaries.  Thanks to Angela for having me here!  :)

The 2007 movie The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, was about two men who escaped the cancer ward and did all the  stuff on their bucket lists before they died.  Now I’m not planning on dying anytime soon, but I do have a  Cardinals bucket list that maybe I’ll get to accomplish before I die.   So here’s my Cardinals bucket list:

1.  Sit in the Commissioner’s Box seats next to the dugout.
The closest I’ve ever sat to the field in Busch Stadium III is on the second level.  It would be so nice to sit in these box seats, and not have to worry about getting up to get food and drink. I would love to be able to see batting practice up close and personal.   Plus, the view would be awesome.  And I might be able to accomplish #4 below.

2.  Sing the National Anthem before a Cardinals game.
I’ve performed the National Anthem at a Cardinals game, but not vocally.  I was part of a 100 person handbell choir that rang the National Anthem at Busch Stadium II for the Cardinals’ 100th anniversary in 1992.  My associate’s degree is in music and I took voice lessons in college.  I also sang in church choirs for over 20 years.  I’m a first soprano, so I can sing the National Anthem in the original key (F).

3.   Sit in the radio broadcast booth with Mike Shannon and John Rooney and maybe do an inning of play-by-play. 
I met the late Jack Buck at a Cardinals pep rally, not long after his book That’s a Winner! came out.  I told him that I had really enjoyed his book and he told me to bring my copy up to the broadcast booth and he would sign it for me.  Unfortunately, I never got to do that.  But it would really be cool to sit up in the broadcast booth with Mike and John and talk baseball.  I think a woman could call play-by-play just as well as a man could.

4.  Catch a foul ball.
The closest I have ever gotten to a foul ball was when my family went to a Cards game a couple of years ago and Yadi Molina hit a foul ball that landed 2 rows below where we was sitting.  Darn!  So close and yet so far!

5. Catch a home run ball.
At a game in 2001, my husband and I were sitting at a table in Homer’s Landing in Busch Stadium II.  The Cards were playing the Reds that night, and Ken Griffey, Jr. hit a HR shot that bounced off of a table 2 rows below us.  I wasn’t fast enough to get that one. Maybe someday I’ll get another chance.

6.  Meet Albert Pujols and Yadi Molina.
The closest I’ve ever gotten to Albert was viewing him from afar at Winter Warmup.  I couldn’t afford the price to get his autograph. :(  I have been to Albert’s restaurant Pujols 5 a few times and admired all of his awards that are on display there.

7.  Go to a Cardinals home playoff game or World Series game.
I’ve been a Cardinals fan for over 30 years but have never had the pleasure of attending a Cardinals home playoff or World Series game in person.  My husband would rather watch these games at home, but I would love to feel the electricity from the crowd that I can see on TV.

8.  Go to an All Star Game.
The closest I got to the 2006 All Star Game in St. Louis was working at Fan Fest.  That was fun in and of itself, but it’s not the same as being at the actual game.

9.  Go to spring training.
Another Cards activity I’ve never been able to attend.  I have vacation time, but not the funds.

10.  Go to a Cards game at another MLB stadium.
Kaufmann Stadium and Wrigley Field are the closest ones to where I live.  Maybe a road trip to either stadium would be in our future.

11.  Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It would be so cool to visit all the Cardinals exhibits at the Hall. I would also love to see the All-American Girls Professional Baseball exhibit.  I cry every time I watch A League of Their Own and the ladies enter their branch of the Hall for the first time.

12.  Go to an Opening Day game again.
I miss the days when Opening Day games were at night.  I would have to take off work to attend an Opening Day game now. I do go on my lunch half-hour (I work in downtown St. Louis) and go to the Opening Day rally.

Are there any Cardinals items on your bucket list?  Feel free to comment below.

See you next time!

Diane

Spring Training, Episode 2

Daniel Descalso!!
With only hours left until Opening Day at Busch Stadium and a full season of Cardinals baseball ahead of us, here’s the final part of my Spring Training report with highlights of my time in Jupiter watching our boys.
Some tidbits of Spring Training Magic.  Enjoy!
Luck of the Late Arrivals
Kyle McClellan
After driving the 4 hours from Tampa, we arrived at Roger Dean Stadium less than 2 hours before game time on Friday.  We hit the team store briefly, then headed to the backfields as the small crowds were dispersing.  Figuring we’d missed the fun, we weren’t expecting much.  But we caught some pitchers taking batting practice, having fun competing for total distance, etc.  Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan were taking turns in the cage and after they were finished, all three signed autographs for the fans that were still hanging around.
In camp for approximately 30 minutes and getting autographs from three starting pitchers?  Why yes, I do believe in fairy tales!  ;)
Pujols Smacks TWO!!
Albert Pujols is ……. Well, he’s Albert Pujols.  What more can you say?  The Spring Training crowd that Saturday went wild when Albert led off the 4th inning with a solo blast to left center field.  Next inning, Pujols decided to do it again, with another homerun.  We felt honored to be watching.  Nothing magic about this one…. Just Pure Pujols. ;)
Morning Frivolities on the Back Fields
On Sunday morning, Lance Berkman was good-naturedly terrorizing Skip Schumaker in the batting cages.  Yadi, Ryan Theriot, Skip and Berkman were taking turns in the cage.  The sun was hot and the crowd was sparse when Berkman decided to have some fun.  He started smacking the cage with his bat when pitches came in to Schumaker.  This progressed to full-fledge cage rattling to distract him.  Pretty soon Yadi and Theriot were joining in and all four were laughing.  It was one of those behind-the-scenes moments that makes me smile.  Nice to see Cardinal clubhouse chemistry alive and well.  ;)
“Look!  It’s Carp!!”
That’s what I said to Hubby on Sunday, pointing up the sidewalk.  He mumbles something like “How can you see with that guy in the way?”
Turns out that guy was Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ Ace and starting pitcher for Opening Day.  He was heading out for a run in shorts and a t-shirt.  Nobody else was around. It was eerie and exciting all at the same time.  Carp wasn’t stopping to chat though, and I didn’t bother him to ask for an autograph.  Memories of the Carp temper and flashbacks to the icy glares he shot Brendan Ryan that time last season kept me from invading his personal space.  I did grab my camera though.  Carp in shorts??  I had an obligation to document that leg art.  ;)
Blessed Are the Happy Autograph Givers
In my opinion, the best part of Spring Training is the accessibility to the players.  (For autographs as well as great photo opportunities) The environment is welcoming and the smaller venue affords a better chance to interact with these players we watch from a distance during the regular baseball season.  I adore observing Cardinals interacting with fans, especially with kids.  Some of the guys are admittedly better about it than others,  but those brief moments when a favorite ballplayer stops to take a picture or sign an autograph often will be more poignant memories for fans than the action on the field that day.
Skip Schumaker making kids happy
We certainly didn’t camp out for hours or pester players for autographs.  Several players voluntarily made themselves available to sign for fans after practice and before or after games. I know some players are jaded by the fact that autographs may end up on Ebay instead of as treasured spring training mementos.  However the players who take the time and spread some joy with a pen on a baseball make long-lasting, positive impressions on fans.  Those moments are priceless, no matter how old you are.
Well, those are a few of my highlights from Spring Training.  Game One of the 2011 Cardinals season is tomorrow!!!  We here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries look forward to sharing the season with you all!
GO CARDS!!

Spring Training, Episode 1

Spring Training means different things to different people.  To me, a trip to Florida in late March when the weather is warm and Opening Day is juuussssst around the corner makes perfect sense.  Mornings spent soaking up the sights and sounds of baseball drills on the backfields of Roger Dean stadium are not too chilly.  Starters are going longer into games and the lineups are full of actual, live 2011 Cardinals!!  It’s as close to “real” season baseball as possible… while still in the cozy setting of the Cardinals Spring Training facility, surrounded by palm trees, sea breezes and sunshine.
Brief Recap:
Previous Spring Training trips (’09 and ’10) were hard on Hubby.
In 2009, new fan syndrome was in full effect.  I’d be up at the crack of dawn, not wanting to miss a single glimpse of a guy in a Cardinal uniform.  I was on Yadi Watch constantly. We hadn’t heard about the opportunity of watching morning practice drills.  I took a total of 178 photos (many of them were blurry because I was shaking from the excitement of it all.)  I noticed a guy named David Freese (#66) and took pictures of Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel.  We saw two games and fell in love with the Spring Training atmosphere.
In 2010, new fan syndrome was still rampant.  PLUS I was armed with useful information from a baseball fan’s best tool: twitter. For example, this time I knew about Roger Dean stadium’s back fields, morning workouts & autograph opportunities, and the existence of Pyros Grill.  I was on Matt Holliday watch.  I took over 700 photos (some were still blurry because Brendan Ryan was spinning too fast for my camera or because I was drooling -just a little- over David Freese.)  I took pictures with Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse.  We saw 4 games – 2 home and 2 away.  I toured a baseball museum (because Aaron Hooks offered me free tickets if I’d review it for Cards Diaspora… #win!)  Highlight?? David Freese signed my shirt!!!  I was addicted to Spring Training.  Baseball overdose at it’s most extreme.
(Hubby was more than relieved to finally get me out of Florida!)
So, on our third trip to Spring Training, this year we did something different. Maybe because I’ve matured in my fandom, maybe because Hubby medicated me…who knows?  But somehow we achieved a more well-rounded Florida vacation.  Don’t get me wrong.  It revolved around baseball!  But we did venture away from Roger Dean.  We enjoyed restaurants and sight-seeing that didn’t involve player-stalking. (Granted, I knew I had to behave myself if Hubby would ever agree to a Spring Training trip #4!)
Last week we even went to see some *gasp* non-Cardinals games.  In fact, while Hubby was meeting friends for a day of fishing (he saw dolphins!!), I ventured off all by myself to watch the Phillies play the Braves.  That experience was a perfect Spring Training warm-up.  I was a berm bum, taking in a game whose players/teams I was less familiar with.  Honestly, I bought that ticket hoping to see Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee pitch for the Phillies and fully expecting to be cheering on former Cardinal Joe Mather in a Braves uniform.  Alas, none of my hopefuls were in the game.  So, I spent a lot of time watching just baseball. I didn’t care who won or lost. And you know what?  I loved every second of it.  The view from the grass was different, enlightening – the game looks different and catches that seem so simple when watching from the infield are suddenly a heckuva lot more impressive when the fielder manages to intercept a rocket while chasing across the outfield grass.  It was baseball.  Good baseball. Man, you gotta love Spring Training!
ST Game 1
Yay!! – 78 degrees, light winds and sunshine.
- Ryan Madson, in all his Madson glory, LIVE!
- Beach party on the OF berm
Boo   – No Joe, Halladay or Lee, but I got over it. ;)
That same night we went to watch the Yankees take on the Astros at the Yankees Spring Training complex.  We were late to the game and the gate guardian wouldn’t let me bring in some of my camera gear. So we were even later after lugging it back to the parking lot again.  No Mariano Rivera appearance. (So far I was shooting 0-fer on my Spring Training hopefuls.)  However it was a night game and the stadium was full of New York fans.  Suffice it to say, that was a FAR different experience than Roger Dean Stadium full of Cardinal fans at 1:05pm games. ;)  Again, I savored every second.
ST Game 2
Yay!! –    Joba and Dave Robertson pitching relief.
- Jeter. Jeter. Jeter.
- Brett Wallace (former Redbird) playing 1st, but hitless
- Kettle corn for dinner!
- Chuckling about “Mr. Know-It-All” sitting behind us who was always handing out words of (incorrect) wisdom to his kids
Boo   –  Gate trolls and repeat trips to the parking lot.
With that, my Spring Training warm-up was complete and we had a 4-hour drive to Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) for Cardinals camp the next morning.  Needless to say… it was hard to fall asleep that night.
Next post:   my stories from Jupiter and my time at Cardinals’ Spring Training:  running into Chris Carpenter out of uniform, on the sidewalk by the stadium; the batting practice frivolity of Lance Berkman; autographs, meeting players, and my favorite Spring Training game moments.
Fitting it all in a blog before Opening Day (tomorrow) was poor planning… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Like I said, we all do Spring Training a little differently.  I spend a lot of time taking pictures instead of keeping a scorecard.  I love watching ballplayers sign autographs and how they interact with fans.  Spring Training provides a unique opportunity to live and breathe the beginnings of baseball season…. until the big show begins.
Happy Opening Day Eve!!  =)

Starting to Mean Something

Those of you that know me a bit know that I get really excited about the beginning of the baseball season. First day of Spring Training? Check (I wore red). First spring game? I found ways to watch that silly little Gameday box from my desk at work (and I wore red). First televised game? I again snuck peaks at the game (despite being unable to listen to most of it) from work (and wore more red).


Each and every first made me smile, caused me to comment, and gave me reason to talk about baseball a little more than usual. But when the game ended and the final score was posted, I shut it down. I didn’t fuss that too many men were left on base or get irritated at why Tony used this reliever instead of that one. Because it didn’t matter. Spring records mean nothing (although I imagine being incredibly bad or blowing everyone out would turn heads). I have no idea what the standings look like for the Grapefruit League, nor will I be looking them up anytime soon.


It’s not that I don’t care. I’m trying to guess my way through those last few roster spots just like everyone else. I have been looking at various names/faces/statistics, but every time I start to get wrapped up in it I remember: Never fall in love too early in spring. Two weeks ago I was pulling for Lance Lynn for the rotation, Daniel Descalso to be the last bench player, was genuinely concerned about Lance Berkman, and still found little reason to trust Kyle Lohse. Since then I changed my mind… on all of those. But let’s look at one at a time…

Pitchers: I am a huge Kyle McClellan fan. Really. I want him to succeed in whatever role he finally lands in. However, it seems that every year he gets put into the rotation mix during Spring Training, I pull for someone else. Why is that? It’s because I constantly fall into the belief that while fifth starters can be found through any number of ways (and the Cardinals have a history of… interesting… fifth starter names over the past few years), strong and reliable workhorse bullpen arms are a little tougher to come by. I don’t doubt Boggs and Motte. I love those goobers and the flaming fastballs they shoot out of their arms like cannons. I do at the same time love that McClellan can use an assortment of pitches and be the kind of setup man that TLR loves to have and use.


I was pulling for Lance Lynn to have the kind of spring that Jaime Garcia did last year. After watching him today, I’m still unconvinced that he absolutely couldn’t do it. His outing was okay, 4 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs and 4 strikeouts is nothing to be super critical of, but not eye opening either. McClellan has done nothing but mow ‘em down. I want it to be McClellan. I suppose I’m pulling for Fernando Salas to get that last spot in the pen, but as Derrick Goold noted this afternoon, the team hasn’t decided yet. I’m not sold, but I feel better about this all now than I did a couple of weeks ago, that’s for sure.


The other pitcher discussion has to be the combination of Jake Westbrook, Garcia, and Lohse. Quick, if you would have picked one of those three to have a strong spring, which would it have been? I would seriously laugh if you had said Lohse. NO ONE saw it coming. Will it last into the regular season? I certainly hope so. I don’t expect him, Westbrook or Garcia to take the place of Adam Wainwright (*sniff*… I’m okay, it’s dust or something), but feeling like we could rely on him to be more like the pitcher we saw in 2008 would be fantastic! Is it time to get concerned about Westbrook feeling like he hasn’t really been able to get his pitches under control or Garcia not feeling worried about his not great start or not working counts well? I suppose that time is getting close. The games are starting to mean something (even if the final scores still do not).


Outfield: Color me not really worried about the outfield. Holliday and Rasmus are obviously just fine, and I think Berkman will be too. He probably cannot and really should not be playing every game like he thinks he can, but I feel confident enough in Jay and Craig being the other two outfielders that it should work out nicely. Should Berkman go down, it would not be the end of the world. I just hope he doesn’t. That’s all.

AP Photo

Infield: The four starters are clear – Pujols, Skip, Theriot, and Freese. No questions there. The two bench spots are the trick. Most assume that Tyler Greene will take one of them, but then it comes down to Daniel Descalso or Matt Carpenter. At the beginning of spring I would have said Descalso, no question. I fell in love too early, then felt Carpenter sweep Cardinal Nation collectively off our feet. He’s not on the 40 man roster, but man, he could be. The fans like him. The front office likes him. Tony likes him (and his work ethic… so… he’s the anti-Brendan?).


But.


Dang. There had to be a ‘but.’


Carpenter plays third. In reality, he only plays third. We have a third baseman by the name of David Freese. Freese has obviously had his share of boo-boos and injury mishaps, and the team is taking care of those and shielding him from doing too much too soon, but really, do you want two players on your team that only play third base? Greene can play second and short, but Descalso can play second, short, and third. Versatility will get you everywhere on a Tony team, just ask Aaron Miles.


Is there a right or wrong answer as to who to take north? I’m not sure there is. The point will most likely be moot anyway whenever Nick Punto (Yeah, I forgot about him too) comes off the disabled list. Both players have played well. Carpenter has gotten more print, but both have averages over .300, both have played solid defense. If you want to argue logistics, then fine – Descalso has experience at the big league level, although very limited (11 games and 37 plate appearances), while Carpenter hasn’t played a game above AA. That is definitely a factor.


Don’t sell either short. However, just because the games are starting to mean something doesn’t mean it’s been long enough to fall for either player.


That’s why they play the games. :)

Even if it was only one game…I finally made it back to Spring Training!!

Finally back after 5 long years!
It has been 5 years (almost to the week) since I last attended a Spring Training game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. March 2006 was also the first time I ever went to Spring Training. We also know what happened in October 2006….so if I am any kind of luck, 2011 could potentially be a Red October. :) Of course I am just being a little superstitious and silly, but it is always fun to think about.

For the last Spring Break of my college career (hopefully!), I visited a friend in Miami, Florida. I told her that I would do anything else during the week as long as we could go to a Spring Training game in Jupiter. Knowing how obsessed I am with baseball and the Cardinals, she agreed, even though she barely knows anything about baseball. I promised her that I would teach her as much as I could and we would have a great time.

Yadier Molina – you can’t tell here, but I
swear his eyes were closed!
In my usual over-zealous fashion, we got there before the gates even opened and I spent a good 20-30 minutes in the official team store buying quite a few goodies. Don’t worry, I did bring back my little sister an official Spring Training t-shirt. I knew she would have been disappointed if I didn’t. Once the gates opened and we got in, I made my way down to the first row on the 1st base side of the stands. I parked myself right in front of the bullpen pitchers mound and waited for players to begin to enter the field.

After about an hour of waiting, finally John Gast, LHP, was the first to enter the field. I think about 3 people bothered even showing interest in him before a little boy in the berm asked for his autograph. He turned around and gladly gave it to him. After a while several more players began to enter the field, with Yadier Molina being one of the first as usual. As I watched him warm up, catching soft-tossed balls from bullpen catcher Murphy, I swear he actually did close his eyes when taking those warmup tosses. (remember the commercial from 2009 when he was blindfolded catching baseballs??). More and more players entered the field, and I got that same excited feeling I do every new season…I was shaking I was so excited. I think this is probably the coolest part of spring training. Instead of the players entering the field from the dugout, where very few fans are able to see them up close, they enter from the outfield where the berm is, so many fans are able to see the players up close and personal and get autographs and chat with their favorite players.

Me & Daniel Descalso
I was lucky enough to meet Daniel Descalso & Mark Hamilton while they were signing autographs near the Cardinals’ bullpen on the first base side. If you have read Daniel’s MLB blog (http://danieldescalso.mlblogs.com/), you know that he has given us a really great inside look on what a day of spring training is like. When I saw him coming around the corner signing autographs, I was excited that I would hopefully get to meet him…and I did. Everyone else just seemed to be asking for autographs, so I asked for a picture as well. My list of pictures with Cardinal players is getting checked off quickly. :) A little while later, Mark Hamilton was doing the same thing, and I got a photo with him as well.

Me & Mark Hamilton
We continued to watch Jaime Garcia warm up before we got booted out of the seats we were using. We headed to our seats in the second level and got to watch an awesome baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. I was actually really glad I got to see this game because I don’t think I have ever seen the Red Sox live and in person. There were a lot of Red Sox fans sitting around us, but thankfully the guy next to me was a Cardinal fan, and I got to impress him with my knowledge. I remember him saying to me, “yeah, you need to work for this team, you know so much!” I hope this comes true someday. We all know it would be a dream come true for me!

Me & CJ Beatty – sorry it’s not the best,
iphone picture… :)
Prior to the game, I had contacted one of my favorite Cardinal twitter-ers, @CJBeatty44, to see if I could meet him. Fortunately, he was supposed to be attending the game before his workouts started the next day! He so politely obliged and we decided to get in contact with each other on March 8th at the game. After several emails back and forth, we realized that we were actually sitting one section away from each other! So, before he had to leave (those dang American League teams cause games to be sooooo long!), we met up. Ok, people, if you enjoy CJ on twitter, you would love to meet him in person! Such a nice, humble guy. I must admit, when I read on his stats that he was 5’10”, I wasn’t sure what to expect (honestly, I thought I might be a little taller than him because I too am 5’10”), but we were the same height. Good for you CJ, I hate it when players fudge their height on their stats page. Haha. Unfortunately we couldn’t spend much time chatting, his girlfriend only had a few more hours to spend with him before his season started, and of course I wanted to watch the rest of the game. However, I can say from what I have read on his website (www.cjbeatty.com) he is a sincerely genuine person, and any Cardinal fans that get a chance to meet him would be very lucky. I am happy to say that we are now friends and I am looking forward to watching his journey as a member of the Palm Beach Cardinal and hopefully on up through the organization and as a St. Louis Cardinal one day. CJ, thanks so much for meeting me! I wish you the best of luck in 2011 and in the future!

Me & my friend Kristin at Roger Dean Stadium
Cardinal fans, I am soooo excited for baseball season! I know we have already had some setbacks and some scares heading into the 2011 season, but I still have faith…I think that there will be several young-veterans and other younger guys (baby birds maybe) who will be able to step up and take advantage of an opportunity. Next time you hear from me will probably be right after Opening Day! I will be there with bells on and I can’t wait to cheer this team to victory in 2011. All things that have happened thus far, I am excited and I am ready to see what this team does this year. I am not extremely superstitious, but remember, I was last at Spring Training in 2006, and we know what happened then…lets hope for the same in 2011! GO REDBIRDS!!



PS…all of these are my pictures, if you wish to see more, I can post em on twitter!

My, How Things Change

I laugh realizing just five years ago the name Jupiter made me think planet, not Florida.  And “Truck Day” would have meant the local Chevy dealer was having a sale.
Now those words give me happy shivers.  Baseball is coming!  We survived the long winter, football is finally over and even the groundhog wants an early Spring.
Who would think that seeing crates of sugarless bubblegum and sunflower seeds loaded onto a truck could bring such joy to the hearts of hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of American adults?
Well, we can all smile a little bigger now, knowing those trucks, loaded with vital ballplayer gear and supplies, are on their way to Jupiter….Florida, not the planet. And the first Spring Training camp workouts start February 14th for pitchers and catchers. Yes, we soon will have baseball!
Wait…February 14th….
That date used to mean something different too!
My, how things change when you fall in love with baseball!  ;)
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